Virgin Atlantic Destination Guides: Jamaica

Virgin Atlantic Destination Guides: Jamaica


Dynamic and upfront, Jamaica has a lust for life like nowhere else on earth! As a culture, Jamaicans celebrate life and their creativity has spread worldwide. Its complex past has made for a proud and resilient modern day culture with a strong link to its rich heritage. This is the Caribbean in full technicolour
– big, bold and beautiful! So leave the cruise ships tourists and all-inclusives behind and explore this incredible island. Welcome to the Virgin Atlantic Guide to Jamaica
– Yeah Man – you’re gonna like it! Each area has its own distinct vibe. The north of the island is the busiest with Montego Bay and Ocho Rios being the main tourist hubs. The west, around Negril, has a more relaxed vibe and is great for water sports and diving. The south is practically untouched with a more mellow feel while the quiet haven of
Port Antonio in the east has the most idyllic beaches and hidden coves. And then there’s the atmospheric Kingston and the cool retreat of the Blue Mountains. The island is as safe as you want to make it and, like anywhere, common sense generally prevails. The busier tourist hot spots will bring their fair share of hagglers so be polite but firm when saying no. The Jamaican dollar is the main currency but, in tourist areas, the US dollar is also
accepted. Jamaica is a bigger island that you may initially think but luckily there are a range of transport options to suit all budgets. Roads can be
treacherous and bumpy at the very least so be sure to fully plan in advance where you
want to go and leave yourself with plenty of time to enjoy your destination. Public buses are cheap but extremely crowded and very unreliable outside the city. Taxis are licenced and you can spot them by their red plate with the letter ‘P’ before the numbers.
Negotiate and agree a fare before you get in as there are no meters. Avoid unlicensed
cabs at all costs! The best option is to book through a private tourist transfer company. Travel island-wide with Paradise Travels, a convenient and comfortable way to get around. The drivers are a lot of fun and very knowledgeable and what they don’t know about Jamaica isn’t worth knowing. When travelling around, be sure to look out for the many colourful food, drink and craft shacks along the roadside. Roast yam and fresh coconut are popular staples, skilfully prepared and highly refreshing. Oh, and for some bakery products you may want to double-check the ingredients before you eat. Montego Bay may be the home of the all-inclusive but there is still plenty to do away from the resorts and main hip strip of Gloucester
Avenue. Close to all of Mo Bay’s attractions, the serene Polkerris is a lovely bed and breakfast alternative. Offering five-star service, the hosts have thought of every detail in this charming family-run house. Polkerris is only a short taxi ride away from Sangster International airport and makes for the perfect first stop on your Jamaican adventure. Their delicious
ackee and saltfish breakfast combined with the spectacular view is a great way to acclimatize to island life. The impeccable service is continued at the family restaurant, the Pelican Grill, one of the oldest and best-loved on the island. The Pelican Grill offers free pick-ups from most major Montego Bay hotels. Another Mo Bay food highlight is the original and best jerk shack in Jamaica, Scotchies. Spicy jerk meat and fish is Jamaica’s most
famous food and dates back to the Taino Indians, the original island settlers. There are other
branches in Ochos Rios and Kingston. Founded in 1906, Doctor’s Cave Bathing Club is still a popular beach hangout to this day. The beach is private but the charge to enter is minimal and well worth it. Jamaica’s coastline is a beautiful place to take a horse ride. Standards can vary so it’s best to ensure your four-legged experience is guilt-free on happy, well-cared for animals. The Half Moon Equestrian Centre has some of the finest horses on the island. There are plentiful craft markets and stores
around Jamaica but all can vary greatly in quality and authenticity. For genuinely original arts and crafts, head to the Gallery of West Indian Art, a longstanding institution with a reputation for sourcing the best in the Caribbean. Another spot can be found in the
mountains above Montego Bay at the magical Ahhh…Ras Natango, as relaxing as the name suggests. The fantastical gardens are quirky, fun and act as a sanctuary for the many colourful
species of native birds. The artist owners beautifully curate the onsite gallery and run regular art classes. For those staying in Montego Bay, Ras Natango provide a free shuttle service to and from the gardens. Heading out of Montego Bay, no Jamaican trip would be complete without a visit to a rum distillery. The parish of Trelawney is best-known
for its sugar estates. Hampden Estate is the oldest in Jamaica. Still running as a working distillery, the tour takes you right to heart of production and tells the story behind the estate. The highlight though is of course the tasting session at the end of the tour. Follow the rum trail down the hill to the port of Falmouth, one of the Caribbean’s
best-preserved Georgian towns. Built on riches amassed from sugar and slavery, Falmouth has a fascinating yet tragic past. Take a tour with one of the passionate guides from Falmouth Heritage Walks. Once the preserve of rich plantation owners, great houses can be found all over the island. Two of the finest examples are close by. Take a guided tour of Greenwood Great House, packed with original furniture and artefacts of the wealthy Barrett family who were amongst the first colonial settlers. Custodians of the house, Bob and Ann, are well-versed on the house and the Barrett family history. Rose Hall is another great house with a more mysterious past and carries a macabre story of betrayal and murder. The house is famous for the legend of Annie Palmer, a multiple murderess said
to haunt the house and its grounds. Ghost tours run nightly but be warned, it’s not for the faint-hearted. [*and to be sure that he was dead, she poured hot oil *scream* Calm down folks, is just the wind] As the only natural night time attraction
in Jamaica, Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon is an incredible way to spend an evening.
When disturbed in the water, the microscopic phosphorescence glow and create an eerie glistening light. A unique night time swimming experience. Moving on to the west of the island, the former hippy enclave that still retains a relaxed bohemian vibe. You can spend lazy days soaking
up the sun before partying the night away. Lush tropical gardens, beautiful beach huts
and the finest food welcome you at The Rockhouse. The boutique resort is built on an ethos of
social and environmental sustainability and works closely with local schools to ensure
tourist revenue reaches the wider community. [children’s voices] Two of Negril’s best restaurants can also be found here The Pushcart Restaurant with its incredible jerk food, and the Rockhouse which is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Be sure to try one of Juicy J’s in-house concoctions, packed with delicious, healthy ingredients grown in the kitchen gardens. The spa here is a peaceful haven and the carefully devised treatments use local and organically-sourced essential oils. The hotel also offers dance and yoga
classes. The teachers are amazing and will have you shaking your booty in no time! There are lots of great scuba and snorkelling excursions
island-wide but the west coast reefs and coves make for some fascinating exploration. Swim, relax or fish on the Sun Baby glass bottom boat. The best part of the tour is donning
a snorkel and jumping in to explore the abundant marine life found amongst the reef. The original draw to Negril was the 7-mile beach but the area has fallen victim to mass tourism and development in recent years. For a more idyllic setting, head to Bluefield Beach Park, only an hour from Negril. Open to all and free to enter, you’ll have the beach to yourself on weekdays but if you prefer a more lively scene visit at the weekend. The beach is manned by lifeguards and has full changing facilities. It’s heaven on earth! For the more adventurous, join a party at
the Negril Blue Hole Mineral Spring where locals and guests take the plunge into the
healing waters. If you don’t fancy the jump there’s also a more calming mineral pool. Alternatively, watch the impressive cliff divers at Rick’s café. Rick’s is a Negril
institution where visitors and locals gather to watch the daring divers jump as the sun
goes down. A spectacular sight, the party continues long into the night. Be one with nature at Zimbali Retreats. Experience a taste of authentic Jamaican culture with one of their many activities. The highlight is a tour to a hilltop dwelling with local Rastafarian Fire who will teach you about
his ways of life whilst cooking a delicious Ital meal, vegetarian and direct from the
earth. Lovingly run by Alicia and Mark, who are passionate about working and living with
nature, a mere 20-minutes from the main resort of Negril and a refreshing contrast to beach
life. On to the south coast and beyond the sleepy old town of Black River, you’ll find a wild and natural landscape gently rolling down
towards the sea. A mixture of sandy beaches and rocky coves, Treasure Beach is a spot that
certainly lives up to its name. Jakes Hotel is a bohemian bolthole on Treasure Beach. This eclectic hotel mixes all the home comforts in a wild and untamed setting, creating a world class collection of boutique rooms and cottages. Sunsets on the south coast are beautiful and best enjoyed from the ocean-side bar whilst the hotel’s farm to table dining menu is as
fresh as it comes. There are kayaks and other water sports available along with an amazing
yoga deck. The below-deck Driftwood Spa occupies a spot by the sea edge, offering up a most
unique open air massage. Or explore the local area by bike. The Hensall family have been running this ocean front Nirvana for many years and are well-loved within the Treasure Beach community. In recent years they have established an incredible sports ground for the locals
and visitors to enjoy. The family also run upmarket villas in the area which all come fully serviced, the ultimate in opulence. Every Thursday night at neighbouring hangout Jack Sprat, there is an under the stars movie night where the legendary film The Harder
They Come is projected onto the big screen. Pizza, cold beer and plenty of atmosphere
is guaranteed so stop by whatever night of the week. Take a fishing boat from Jakes jetty to one
of the world’s most unique places to grab a beer – Floyd’s Pelican Bar. A fun place to chill and take a dip. Back to land and the town of Black River, home to some of Jamaica’s oldest residents. Take a trip upstream, through the mangrove swamps to truly appreciate this
ancient and natural wonderland. A cascading waterfall sets the scene for an afternoon of fun and thrills at YS Falls. There’s plenty to do and acres of countryside to explore at this stunning inland location. Take a zip wire ride with an experienced instructor for a truly immersive take on the surrounding environment. Kingston is a bustling city with a very distinct personality. Bursting with energy, the capital is home to over a third of the island’s population and is its cultural and economic heart. Sitting in the shadow of the Blue Mountains, its sprawling landscape is best explored with a local guide to help make sense of the vibrant street life and cultural hot spots. No trip to Kingston would be complete without a visit to the Bob Marley museum. Celebrating the life of one of the world’s most loved singers, the museum is based in Bob Marley’s former home where he recorded from 1975 until his
untimely death in 1981. A pilgrimage for reggae-lovers worldwide. There is a brutal honesty to Kingston that
is reflected in the artworks and sculptures on display at the National Gallery of Jamaica. Aiming to promote and preserve the artistic heritage of the West Indies, exhibitions date back from the Taino tribe to present day. When you’re ready to escape the tropical
heat, head up to the beautiful Blue Mountains. The longest mountain range in Jamaica offers plenty of opportunities for hikers and wildlife lovers and is home to one of the islands most famous exports – Blue Mountain coffee. For a birds eye view of Kingston, stay in the
tranquil Strawberry Hill Hotel. This colonial-style gem sits high above the capital, built on the site of a former coffee plantation. The mountain-top village comprises of exquisite cottages and all come with breath-taking views. The mountain retreat also offers some of the best wellbeing on the island. The picturesque setting is the perfect backdrop for the Sunrise and Sunset Yoga Practice. Chris Blackwell, the legendary music producer and owner of Strawberry Hill, keeps many of his gold records here. Worth a look before settling in to the
cosy bar to enjoy a cocktail and the night time views. Non-guests can also stop off at
Strawberry Hill to enjoy the restaurant. Their Sunday brunches have become a popular ritual for local families and tourists alike. What goes up, must come down! There’s no better way to descend a mountain than on a free-wheeling bicycle. The Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours offer the whole package including transportation from most of the main island resorts and a
traditional Jamaican brunch along with all the equipment you will need. This is a perfect day trip for those wishing to experience the Blue Mountains in an exhilarating, educational and fun fashion. Whether you’re staying on the mountain or just passing through, make sure you stop off at one of the local coffee plantations to experience the authentic Blue Mountain taste. Perched more than 4,000 feet about sea level, the Twyman’s Old Tavern Coffee Estate is a remarkable insight into the history and processes of coffee production. The Twyman family have been making coffee here for decades and grow, harvest and package their unique blend all from their mountainside home. Tours here are free but make sure you
call in advance as this is a working plantation. On the other side of the Blue Mountains is
the calm and carefree northeast coast. Once the mecca of the Hollywood elite, it was home to some of Jamaica’s most famous residents including swashbuckling movie start Errol
Flynn who declared the area more beautiful than any woman he had ever seen, and he really loved his ladies! Set on a hilltop above the stunning town of Port Antonio is Hotel Mockingbird Hill. It’s a homely atmosphere in a dazzling setting. The food at Mille Fleurs in-house
restaurants is delicious and the chefs run cookery classes for anyone wishing to take
a taste of Jamaica home with them. Be sure to book The Perch for an unforgettable romantic meal. Hotel Mocking Bird Hill is the perfect chic hideaway and the owners are passionate
supporters of sustainable tourism. The spa setting is in the beautifully maintained tropical gardens with only the sound of the birds and the breeze for company. There are plenty of stunning locations to
discover around the main north-eastern town of Port Antonio. The Blue Lagoon is as exotic as its name suggests. It’s free to enter and swim here but bear in mind it also attracts hawkers. For a stress-free experience, explore by boat. Frenchman’s Cove is another alluring
beauty spot. The private beach complete with freshwater stream is situated in a secluded
bay and the nominal entrance fee is well worth the spend. Take the ultimate lazy river trip through
Jah’s Garden on the Rio Grande River. The bamboo rafts were originally used to ferry bananas to the port before Errol Flynn popularised it for fun, often holding moonlight races
along the river. The journey takes a good couple of hours so take provisions or better still stop for a meal at Belinda’s Riverside Canteen. Ocho Rios dominates the north coast tourist scene but the true beauty of the area lies out of the town. Goldeneye is the definitive desert island hideaway. The former home of James Bond writer Ian Fleming, it is now owned by Chris Blackwell as part of his exclusive island outpost portfolio. Blackwell also founded Island Records and was responsible for the global success of Bob Marley. The houses are either Lagoon-side or face the beach with its white sands and coral reef. There are plenty of water sport activities and each house comes with its own kayak and paddleboard. Night times are for delicious cocktails, amazing Jamaican food and bonfires on the beach. A retired headmaster from Birmingham makes an unlikely eco-warrior but Mel Tennant has been helping critically endangered turtles
in Oracabessa since 2004. Thanks to Mel’s hard work the nesting ground releases up to 20,000 turtles a year back into the ocean. Mel, or Turtle Man as he is more widely known, will happily share his knowledge and findings to interested parties. [Now I can tell that turtle’s in perfect condition ready to go.] Contact him in advance to arrange a tour. For an afternoon of laid back vibes and water
sport fun, head to Bamboo Blue near Ocho Rios. There’s a great atmosphere and lots to keep beach bums busy! The Ocho Rios Blue Hole is a series of waterfalls in a stunning jungle setting where the local lifeguards really know how to put on a good show. There is an entrance fee to the waterfalls and guides on hand will expect a further tip. Firefly is the historic home of playwright
Noel Coward who along with his friends Ian Fleming and Errol Flynn was an early champion of the island. Noel Coward hosted many a party for the jet set in this modest house and his love of the island was so great he was buried here on the grounds. The house is just as the writer left it with many of his personal letters, photographs and books still on display. Taste coconut straight from the tree at Sun Valley, a working fruit plantation. The family owners tell the story of the property from the slave era to the present day as well as showing guests the many herbs and fruits they grow on the farm. There you have it – our roundup of this
captivating tropical island. Lively and compelling, make the effort to venture beyond the resort walls and Jamaica will reward you with the holiday of a lifetime. “Out of many, one people” is the mantra of this laid-back paradise and it is the Jamaican locals that
give the island its life and soul so open your heart and jump right in. Thank you for watching our Virgin Atlantic
Guide to Jamaica.

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